How to Start an Ecommerce Business

by Susan

How To Start An Ecommerce Business

Have you been dreaming of starting an ecommerce business?

Do you have a product that you know you could sell if you just took the leap? The good news is, it’s easier than ever to test out your idea without spending a fortune.

I personally love the idea of having an online shop of my own. One of my bookkeeping clients runs an ecommerce store selling sewing patterns (both digital and printed patterns) and she’s doing really well as a one-woman shop.

She’s not the only one! There are thousands of women out there making a living selling their creative ideas online. Another example that comes to mind is  Wunderkin Bows.  The founder, Hillary, wanted to create a classic accessory that her own daughter could wear.

How to start an e-commerce business

Today, her business is massively successful!

Amy Gabriel of LippyClip started her business on Etsy in 2012 as a way to earn extra money and nurture her creative side.

Since then, LippyClip is a multi-six figure business employing 13 women.

These women didn’t have overnight success with their businesses. With everything, it takes time and dedication to get an idea off the ground. An ecommerce store is no different.

The nice thing about an ecommerce store, as opposed to a blog, is that you could literally be making money within days of opening your shop. Monetizing a blog can take much longer!

I recently launched an Etsy shop to test out some notepads that I make. I had my first sale four days after opening my shop. I’m not rolling in hundred dollar bills yet, but it was encouraging to see the first sale come in so soon after launching. And when I say launching, I mean I literally just put up my listings and ran a couple cheap Etsy ads. That was it.

That said, it does take work and patience to get an ecommerce to the point where you’re making making consistent sales.

There are a lot of resources and courses out there that can help you learn how to start an ecommerce business. Take advantage of them and shorten your learning curve.

A couple that come to mind are Steve Chou’s course (love his podcast!) and Susan Bradley’s courses at The Social Sales Girls.

It’s not a simple process to set up a successful business online any more than it’s easy to set up a brick and mortar business on the street. There are steps that need to be taken, but if you put in the work, you’ll be able to establish a prosperous online business that allows you to develop and grow in the long term.

If you’re interested in starting an ecommerce business with a subscription box business model, then definitely check out Sarah Williams program, Launch Your Box.  Sarah runs a few of her own subscription boxes and is a wonderful person! I was in her membership for a couple months and learned so much.

Here are a few more tips to help you get on a path to ecommerce success.

Start with Your Idea

While you might have a great idea and the talent to put it into action, you’ll want to make sure that you’ve considered Is your home-based business idea worth pursuing? Here are tips that will help you decide!exactly how your product or service fills a gap in the market. Supply and demand play a huge role in determining the success of all businesses.

You’ll need to keep in mind what kind of people are going to purchase your product. How does it solve a problem for them? How can you improve it?

These are questions you need to consider before you settle on anything. There are a few ways that you can stress test your business ideas:

  1. Look into the industry. See what’s already out there. How does your idea compare and how can you cover gaps that existing products and services don’t help with. Read reviews of similar products – what are people asking for, complaining about, or praising?
  2. Talk to potential clients. What are their pain points? What kind of products or services do they wish existed? Ask them what kind of help they would be most likely to pay for and what kind of value they would place on it. It may not give you a complete product or service guide but it will help develop your idea and determine how you can best break into the market.
  3. Test your product or service. Whether that means selling prototypes of your product or offering a small pool of clients advance access to your service, a trial run can give you valuable information about your business before you officially launch.

Look at Your Competitors

Every business has competitors, and so will yours. Looking at your competitors can give you invaluable information on what kind of product or service is selling best in your industry and what kind of options people are looking for. Where there are gaps in your competitor’s product offerings, there are opportunities for you to fill those gaps.

You’ll also be able to get a jump start on different angles of your business such as your target audience and where to market your product and service. Chances are good that if a direct competitor is seeing a high return on investment through marketing on Facebook, you’ll be able to leverage a social media platform to give your business a boost as well. You can learn from the success of your competitors just as you can learn from their mistakes.

You’ll also want to outline how you are different from each of your competitors. What makes you better or different than the options already on the market? Understanding the way that you are filling a need in the industry that isn’t being currently met is the main way that you can make your business successful.

Set up a Website

As an ecommerce business owner, your website is the face of your business. It’s critical that you create an online platform that is easy to use, well designed, and effectively conveys your product or service offerings to both Google and potential customers.

Thankfully, the tools today make starting an ecommerce business less painful than it used to be!

Etsy

Platforms like Etsy make setting up a shop super easy and very inexpensive. By setting up your storefront on Etsy, you canHow to start an ecommerce store take advantage of the millions of shoppers searching for products on the platform.

Etsy is also a great place to test out new products. If you aren’t sure if you want to sell a product, or you’re not sure if there is a market, then Etsy is a platform for testing because it’s easy to set up new listings and is much less expensive and time-intensive than setting up your own website.

Etsy has a .20 listing fee – so you’ll pay .20 for each live listing you have per month. They also charge around 5% per transaction. A small investment to try out products!

If you are going to put some products up on Etsy, but sure and create high-quality listings using keywords so you can drive buyers to your Etsy shop. Here are a couple articles on creating good Etsy listings:

The down side to Etsy is, it’s a bit harder to grow an email list since Etsy doesn’t provide customer emails to you, but I still think it’s a great place to get started.

Shopify

If you’d rather set up your own online store, then using a platform like Shopify will help make the technical side of online business not so daunting.

I have used Shopify a number of times over the years for ecommerce businesses that I have dabbled with, and I love it. It’s pretty easy to use and customize to fit your brand.

Creating listings in Shopify is very straightforward and there are a ton of apps you can plug into Shopify to make it even more robust.

You can even use Shopify if you sell digital products. Shopify has an app for digital downloads, so you can easily sell printables or courses or even services through the Shopify platform.

What I love about Shopify is how easy it is to set up the payment options. Shopify takes care of all this stuff, so you don’t need to worry about how to plug in merchant services or PayPal.  It’s all done with a couple clicks!

Keep in mind you will pay a monthly fee for Shopify and most of the apps have a small fee as well, but it could be well worth it.

Once you have your website or Etsy shop up and running, it’s time to start marketing your products and getting sales!

WooCommerce

If you have a Wordpress blog or website and you’d like to start selling products on your site, then you can use the free plugin WooCommerce to easily set up a shop page and product listings.

Keep in mind with WooCommerce, you’ll want to make sure you have an SSL certificate (most hosting services like Hostgator  provide this with your package – just make sure your site is secure and using “https” instead of “http” in your url.)

Once your site is secure, you can connect WooCommerce to Stripe and/or PayPal to accept payment.

In addition to making sure your site is secure, you may to need to add additional WooCommerce plugins depending on what type of products you are selling. For example, if you are shipping products, you might look into adding ShipStation or another shipping module to make the process smooth on the backend.

Keep in mind, the main WooCommerce plugin is free, but if need to add more functionality, such as recurring billing, or product bundling, you’ll need to pay for those WooCommerce add-ons’s.

Find Your AudienceHow to start an ecommerce store

Once you have your website or shop setup, you’ll need to start finding those awesome customers.

Hopefully you’ve figured out who your ideal customer is and how your products help them so now it’s just a matter of getting in front of those customers.

In today’s online world, there are a number of ways you can get in front of potential customers without spending a fortune. Let’s explore a few options!

Facebook Ads

Last summer I took Beth Anne Schwamberger’s FB Ad Intensive and I have to say, it’s an amazing program. If you have a lower price product ($17 – $97), either physical or digital, that you can offer to a specific group of people, then this is a fantastic program.

Facebook Ads are not something you master overnight, but if you are willing to take the time and invest in learning the ropes, it could really pay off. Many of the students in the FB Ad Intensive saw big returns on their Facebook ad spend.

Keep in mind, her program is not for Etsy sellers. You need to have Shopify or your own website to follow her program. The reason for this is you need to be able to put a Facebook pixel on your site to track your ad performance and having your own site (or a Shopify site) is the best way to do that.

The FB Ads Intensive is only open three times a year and is by application only, but it’s definitely worth checking out, especially if you have some sales under your belt and are looking to up-level your business.

Social Media

Whether you love or hate social media, there’s no denying the power it has for businesses promoting products and services. Depending on your ideal customer, you may find that having a consistent Instagram or Pinterest presence could get customers in the door (or onto the website!) without spending a dime.

Building a community of ideal customers is a powerful way to grow your business and establish your brand. Creating a Facebook page and doing Facebook Lives is a great way to do this.  Having a Facebook page allows you to talk to your customers, announce new product releases and offer tips and other fun resources. It’s a great platform for engaging with your people on a deeper level.

Of course, Facebook shouldn’t replace growing your own email list, but it’s definitely something to consider adding to your overall marketing strategy.

Pinterest is another great platform for promoting your products, especially if you are targeting women buyers.  If you want to learn how to master Pinterest, check out Carly Campbell’s Pinteresting Strategies.  I’m going through this course now!

Whatever social media platform you choose, the key is to drive people to your website. You want to get people there so you can start collecting email addresses!

Email Marketing

Building an email list is probably the most important thing you can as you start an ecommerce business.

Obviously, if you are starting out on Etsy, this will be a little tougher since you can’t collect your customer emails on Etsy, but if you have a Shopify or Wordpress site, you definitely want to collect email addresses. This is going to be key in growing your business.

In order to build a list, you need a email newsletter service, such as ConvertKit or Klaviyo.

Once you get your opt-in on your website, then it’s all about creating an email strategy that will help you engage with your audience and ultimately, bring in sales.

Here is a podcast interview you might enjoy that touches on email marketing for ecommerce sellers.

You Can Start An Ecommerce Business!

If you want it bad enough, girl, you can do it.

Make sure that you are always continuing to build your brand. Your core values should feed into everything that your business does, and as you continue to establish your business online, your brand should get stronger.

You can do this by:

  • Providing effective customer service
  • Getting feedback from your customers
  • Expanding your product or service offerings
  • Creating effective industry content to provide valuable information to your customers
  • Leverage social media to tell your story
  • Investigate influencer marketing options

Building a successful ecommerce brand is SO possible! Although there is a substantial amount of competition for top ecommerce brands, you can create your own platform to build your business as long as you can show yourself as an effective alternative to the current options.

It won’t happen overnight but if you are strategic and thoughtful, your business plan will result in a profitable online platform that will flourish and give you the opportunity to grow.

 

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